Desperate WaPo complains: Manchin's "machinations" are too open and public

Isn’t this the same newspaper that complained that Kyrsten Sinema wouldn’t negotiate publicly on the Democrats’ reconciliation bill? Why yes, yes it is. Just two days after slagging Sinema for her rectitude, today the same paper accuses Joe Manchin of using “machinations” to publicly grandstand and flex his considerable muscle in the evenly split Senate.

Here’s the headline from today:

Manchin’s machinations reach a crescendo as he distances himself from his party while cutting deals on its agenda — all in public view

The report in the “news” section isn’t much better:

Sen. Joe Manchin III started his Tuesday in a downtown hotel ballroom, trading stories with one of Washington’s richest men in front of a crowd of hundreds of business leaders, journalists and fellow politicians all scrutinizing his every utterance for fresh clues about the fate of the pending trillion-dollar legislation pushed by President Biden.

Afterward, he arrived at the Capitol greeted by television cameras, and when he strolled to his office a few hours later, he was accompanied — as is now typical — by a chaotic pack of reporters pressing for news and a clutch of climate activists demanding he abandon his fossilfuel-friendly views.

Later — again in the full view of reporters — he huddled in the Senate basement with his chief antagonist, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has been sharply critical of Manchin’s effort to slash his $3.5 trillion spending framework by more than half. …

Manchin is not alone in using his leverage to shape the pending legislation: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has delivered equally thorny ultimatums, albeit behind closed doors, and dozens of other lawmakers are looking to put a personal stamp on the must-pass domestic policy bill.

But none have turned their influence into public spectacle the way that Manchin has this year, and none have openly sought to distance themselves from their party label as the West Virginian has. Now — with Democrats eager to strike a deal before Biden leaves for Europe this week — Manchin’s machinations have reached a crescendo.

Manchin’s public discussions on reconciliation and engagement with reporters are now “machinations.” His continued accessibility and discourse are now “machinations.” It’s “a public spectacle,” in fact!

Funny, the same paper said this on Monday about Sinema, who has negotiated her positions quietly with the White House:

In part because Sinema’s vote is so critical to major government policy changes, staying quiet about what she likes or dislikes is also arguably a disservice to public discourse. The more people know about what she and other lawmakers are debating, the more Americans can participate in shaping legislation that will affect their lives. …

Her approach is reminiscent of a much more old-school style of legislating, when powerful lawmakers huddled together and cut deals. (Sinema’s critics would deride that as a return to the proverbial smoke-filled backrooms, where there was little to no transparency about lawmaking and special interests ruled the day.) …

Being controlled by special interests is a common attack lobbed at politicians, and it’s often hard to prove or disprove. Sinema is probably avoiding such attacks on a dozen other negotiating points that we don’t know about because she has kept her views so private.

Speaking in public is grandstanding! Negotiating in private is corrupt! If the Post’s editors didn’t have double standards, they wouldn’t have any standards at all.

It seems the real sin here for both isn’t how much or how little they talk to the press. It’s their opposition to the Bernie Sanders wish list. Sanders has been nearly as ubiquitous on television as Manchin has been in attempting to force the two dissenters into line, which got this approbation from Amber Phillips on Monday, who at least noted that there’s not much difference between Manchin and Sanders on this point:

Other politicians — most politicians — feel very differently. They’re talking to journalists, they’re writing op-eds, they’re getting in front of TV cameras, they’re on social media. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — who has been frustrated by Sinema and the other Democratic Senate holdout, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) — is a good example of this.

The Washington Post isn’t offended by Manchin’s “machinations” or Sinema’s silence. They’re offended by their positions on the bill, and the Post is using their news section as a proxy for their support of the bill.

The editors won’t be happy to hear that it’s not just Manchin and Sinema tossing sand in the works, though:

It’s a measure of the Post’s desperation that they’ve begun complaining about politicians who actually answer reporters’ questions. Isn’t their motto that “democracy dies in darkness,” anyway?